What is a Calvinist?

I know what I learned at Faith Baptist Bible College.  I know what Ryrie says in Basic Theology, and I know what my professors taught me.  But people that I KNOW are saved (as much as anybody can really know about someone else) tell me Calvinism is wrong.  They describe TULIP and they seem to twist the meanings into doctrines I don't believe, so I think, "Am I really a Calvinist?" 

Background here.

Thoughts?

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JD Miller's picture

Steve, you ask a good question.  I have learned that within our "circles" there are some men who feel like they have to have an enemy to fight with us among us or else they are not being faithful.  Often in order to make their cause seem more valid they will misrepresent what others teach.  Sometimes this is done intentionally other times it is done in ignorance.  Then others hear the misrepresentations- thinking they are truth- and the error gets spread (BTW I fear a lot of error gets spread in our circles because some very vocal men have latched on to an issue and then want to sell their books and periodicals and sensationalism sells much quicker than an exegetical analysis of scripture).  I believe this has happened in the Calvinism debate.  I am not suggesting that we not critique each of the points of Tulip, but let us make sure that we are critiquing what Calvinists actually teach, not what some say they teach.

JohnBrian's picture

and have a question about the L

Since Amyraldism affirms that faith is the condition for salvation

"Amyraldianism . . . implies a twofold will of God, whereby he wills the salvation of all humankind on condition of faith but wills the salvation of the elect specifically and unconditionally.

and since 2 Thessalonians 3:2 states that everyone doesn't have faith

...and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.

and since 2 Peter 1:1 speaks about obtaining faith, therefore a gift:

Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

and since Calvinists affirm that faith and repentance are gifts given at regeneration that actuate in belief/salvation (here affirming that regeneration precedes belief).

The Gift of Repentance

First and foremost, repentance is a gift. It is an act that the Holy Spirit works in us resulting in an act that flows out of us. Although it is our act, it does not originate from within us.

and

Repentance unto Life

We have also observed that faith and repentance flow out of regeneration; they are not the cause of regeneration.

why does Amyraldism affirm that God:

wills the salvation of all humankind on condition of faith 

In other words, if faith is a gift from God and is only given to the elect, how can God will the salvation of those to whom He doesn't give the gift of faith?

p.s. don't be afraid of the L!

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Ron Bean's picture

You might be a Calvinist if you believe that:

Man is a sinner and unable to contribute anything to his salvation unless God graciously provides it. (God provides everything necessary for salvation)

God saves people totally apart from any good work they may have done or might do.

God grace is capable of conquering man's will. 

God keeps those he saves secure and conforms them into the image of His Son.

Christ's sacrifice did not fail in its purpose to save His people from their sins. (no one Christ died for is going to Hell)

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Steve Picray's picture

My goodness but your post reads like a GARBC resolution!  All you need are some uses of the word "whereas."

  1. I actually believe in a threefold will of God. His proscriptive will is things that he doesn't want to happen. His prescriptive will is things that He does want to happen, and His permissive will is things that He allows to happen.  In His permissive will, He wants all humans to be saved, but His prescriptive will states that only the elect will be saved. 
  2. 2 Thessalonians 3:2 is speaking specifically of the unsaved, and referring to them as those who do not have faith.  The idea "in the gospel" or "in Christ" is implied here.  I think you would agree (given your first point) that everyone doesn't have faith in Christ.
  3. Yes, faith is a gift that God gives the elect. I do not disagree.
  4. Given.
  5. I'm not sure about your "gift of repentance."  As I understand it, God regenerates us and gives us faith, but we are commanded to repent.  I could be wrong, since I haven't studied this in years, but your last sentence "Although it is our act…" sounds like we have nothing to do with it. If we have nothing to do with it, then why do we preach for people to repent at all?  Why did Christ preach for people to repent, if the whole process starts with Him?
  6. I do not believe that faith flows from regeneration.  If a man is regenerated, why does he need faith?  I believe that faith and regeneration happen simultaneously.
  7. Your final point is the crux of your argument, that "if faith is a gift from God and is only given to the elect, how can God will the salvation of those to whom He doesn't give the gift of faith?"

I would direct you to my point #1 here for the answer. The simplest answer is:

Q. Why do not all people have faith if God wills them to have faith?
A. God also wills that all people get saved, but not all do (see 2 Peter 3:9).

p.s. I'm not afraid of the L any more than I'm afraid of CCM or infant baptism. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

Your question seems to have more to do with whether faith is a gift than the issue of limited atonement.

Regarding faith as a gift, Carl Henry wrote, "to share in salvation fallen man requires not simply human decision and action but divine enablement." I am there with you on that one.

Regarding limited atonement, Reymond accurately captured the Amyraldian distinction when he wrote “[t]he upshot of the Amyrldian arrangement is that the actual execution of the divine discrimination comes not at the point of Christ’s redemptive accomplishment but at the point of the Spirit’s redemptive application,” (A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd ed. [Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998], 477).​ This is why I see no inconsistency in the fact that God the Father actively planned salvation in eternity past, God the Son died to atone for the sins of the world, and God the Spirit applies the benefits of the Son's sacrifice in the hearts of some according to the Father's plan. 

The Son's death has a negative effect, as well as a positive. Those who reject His sacrifice confirm or prove they are condemned already (Jn 3:18), and therefore have no cloak for their sin at the day of judgment (Jn 15:22). 

I am not afraid of the "L," I just don't see it. 

 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture

Editor

You wrote:

I do not believe that faith flows from regeneration.  If a man is regenerated, why does he need faith?  I believe that faith and regeneration happen simultaneously.

Well said!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

TylerR wrote:
The Son's death has a negative effect, as well as a positive. Those who reject His sacrifice confirm or prove they are condemned already (Jn 3:18), and therefore have no cloak for their sin at the day of judgment (Jn 15:22). 

I am not afraid of the "L," I just don't see it. 

Tyler,

I don't think you can say the Son's death has a negative effect. That makes it causal, but, as you stated, the lost are condemned already. They would be condemned with or without Calvary. The cross only has a positive effect, and only then on the elect.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

TylerR's picture

Editor

Chip:

I agree that men were condemned already before Christ came. Jesus' point is that His ministry confirmed this condemnation, proved it, and has left those who continue to reject Him without a cloak for their sin. Carson, in his commentary on John, remarked that the Son's death removed even the pretense of innocence. 

If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause (Jn 15:22-25).

In rejecting Christ, the clearest and most direct representation of the Father (Jn 1:18; Heb 1:3), they are definitively rejecting the Father, too. They were already without excuse, now they don't have even the pretense of one. In this way, Christ's death is not the cause of condemnation, but it confirms, seals or proves the condemnation of all who refuse to repent and believe. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

JohnBrian's picture

Quote:
I actually believe in a threefold will of God. His proscriptive will is things that he doesn't want to happen. His prescriptive will is things that He does want to happen, and His permissive will is things that He allows to happen. In His permissive will, He wants all humans to be saved, but His prescriptive will states that only the elect will be saved.

Many theologians use the terms Prescriptive and Decretive

Prescriptive meaning "God’s revealed will to mankind in the form of a command."

Decretive meaning "God’s eternal, sovereign decree by which he ordains all things which come to pass according to the counsel of his will."

see also: The Will of God by R.C. Sproul

What you call permissive is decretive. God permitted Joseph's brothers to sell him into slavery because he intended to "save many people alive" (Gen. 50:20).

Quote:
I'm not sure about your "gift of repentance." As I understand it, God regenerates us and gives us faith, but we are commanded to repent. I could be wrong, since I haven't studied this in years, but your last sentence "Although it is our act…" sounds like we have nothing to do with it. If we have nothing to do with it, then why do we preach for people to repent at all? Why did Christ preach for people to repent, if the whole process starts with Him?

The quote is from Parson, so is not technically my last sentence!

These verses show that repentance is granted, therefore is a gift:

Acts 11:18

Quote:
God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life

2 Timothy 2:25

Quote:
if God perhaps will grant them repentance

We preach repentance because God "commands all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). The command does not imply that man can obey.

Romans 8:7-8 shows that man cannot:

Quote:
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

And we do have something to do with it - because the gifts of repentance and faith actuate in belief.

Quote:
I do not believe that faith flows from regeneration. If a man is regenerated, why does he need faith? I believe that faith and regeneration happen simultaneously.

You are using regeneration as a synonym for salvation, which is not the way it is used in Calvinism.

In this comment on another thread I covered some of this same ground. To summarize, if you affirm that the T of TULIP shows the inability of the unregenerate to do anything that pleases God (Rom. 8:7-8, above), they first must be brought back to life.

In Ezekiel 37 we have dry bones in verses 1 and 2. Then in verse 9 we have "an exceedingly great army." What causes the difference? Did the dry bones cause themselves to become an army? No, it was hearing the word of the Lord.

In John 11:43, Jesus commanded Lazarus to "come forth! The word of the Lord caused the restoration of life to his corpse, but the command wasn't obeyed until he exited the tomb.

In both cases the Word caused the regeneration, and in the case of Lazarus specifically he then exited the tomb. His regeneration preceded and caused his ability to exit the tomb. Regeneration and faith may happen simultaneously, but it is the regeneration that is the cause of faith, not vice-versa.

Quote:
Your final point is the crux of your argument, that "if faith is a gift from God and is only given to the elect, how can God will the salvation of those to whom He doesn't give the gift of faith?"

Prescriptive vs decretive wills!

Quote:
Q. Why do not all people have faith if God wills them to have faith?

A. God also wills that all people get saved, but not all do (see 2 Peter 3:9).

Here is a 2 Peter 3:9 thread from 2011 My point in that thread was to show that context demands that the all refers to the us (the beloved), not to all men generally.

I posted an article to my blog in 2007 titled Calvinist or Arminian - which are you? I summarize the "Heads of Doctrine" from the Canons of Dordt, to assist the reader in determining whether he is Calvinist or Arminian.

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JohnBrian's picture

TylerR wrote:

This is why I see no inconsistency in the fact that God the Father actively planned salvation in eternity past,

God the Son died to atone for the sins of the world,

and God the Spirit applies the benefits of the Son's sacrifice in the hearts of some according to the Father's plan.

God the Father planned to save only the elect (John 3:16-18).

v.16 - to all those who believe God gives the gift of eternal life.

v.18 - to all those who do not believe God withholds the gift of eternal life.

At this point it doesn't matter which view of election you affirm, as acknowledgment of God's omniscience requires one to affirm that the 2 distinct groups are closed. Since God knows the members of each group, there can be no movement between groups. In other words, God can never say "Oh, I didn't know that JohnBrian was going to believe!"

God the Holy Spirit "applies the benefits of the Son's sacrifice" only to the elect.

IF God the Son atoned for more than only the elect, and more than God in His omniscience knew would believe, you have a the Son at odds with the other members of the Trinity.

That is why you will often see non-Calvinists (such as this one) use the phrase, God has made salvation possible.

If the sins of all men everywhere are atoned for, there can be nothing left for the sinner to atone!

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TylerR's picture

Editor

You are arguing from silence. I affirm unconditional, single election. Yet, you are arguing as if I don't believe in election!

Therefore, these comments:

At this point it doesn't matter which view of election you affirm, as acknowledgment of God's omniscience requires one to affirm that the 2 distinct groups are closed.

Since God knows the members of each group, there can be no movement between groups

are meaningless. I affirm election. It is clearly there in Scripture. 

You write:

God the Holy Spirit "applies the benefits of the Son's sacrifice" only to the elect.

I agree. I said that above! 

You also wrote:

IF God the Son atoned for more than only the elect, and more than God in His omniscience knew would believe, you have a the Son at odds with the other members of the Trinity

You are arguing from silence once again. I have never questioned God's omniscience. I affirm it. He has a divine decree. Events are marching forward according to the Father's sovereign plan. There is a perfect unity in the Triune Godhead, whereby each Person works together:

  • God the Father planed salvation in eternity past 
  • God the Son died to atone for the sins of the entire world
  • God the Spirit effectually applies the benefits of the Son's death in the lives of the elect when they repent and believe
    • As the 1833 New Hampshire Confession says:

      • We believe that, in order to be saved, sinners must be regenerated, or born again; that regeneration consists in giving a holy disposition to the mind; that it is effected in a manner above our comprehension by the power of the Holy Spirit, in connection with divine truth, so as to secure our voluntary obedience to the gospel; and that its proper evidence appears in the holy fruits of repentance, and faith, and newness of life.

This conversation can take many twists and turns from here, but I do think you misunderstood the nature of my  argument. I am not arguing for some wishy-washy, passive foreknowledge on the part of God the Father. Not at all.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

JohnBrian's picture

TylerR wrote:
Yet, you are arguing as if I don't believe in election!

I should have used the word one, as in:

Quote:
At this point it doesn't matter which view of election one affirms.

My intention was to use your post to affirm Particular Redemption / Definite Atonement, and that word change would have made my intention clearer.

I see that we agree on everything except the extent of the atonement of Christ with regard to it's purpose.

Everyone that believes the Bible affirms a Limited Atonement, either in application or intent.

Quote:
As the 1833 New Hampshire Confession says:

We believe that, in order to be saved, sinners must be regenerated, or born again; that regeneration consists in giving a holy disposition to the mind; that it is effected in a manner above our comprehension by the power of the Holy Spirit, in connection with divine truth, so as to secure our voluntary obedience to the gospel; and that its proper evidence appears in the holy fruits of repentance, and faith, and newness of life.

The Confession affirms regeneration prior to belief, in stating that the evidence of regeneration is repentance and faith.

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Steve Picray's picture

JohnBrian wrote:

Everyone that believes the Bible affirms a Limited Atonement, either in application or intent.

 

That seems kind of sneaky, if  you don't mind me saying so.  Yes, we all believe in "limited atonement" in application, because no serious Calvinist (or Arminian, for that matter) would ever say that ALL people are going to heaven, which would be the only logical outflow of a belief in "unlimited atonement."  

But I do not believe that Christ died ONLY for the sins of the elect, which is the traditional definition of "limited atonement" (your "intent").  Why is it impossible in your view to believe that Christ died for all, but not all will be saved? 

It's like if I walked into a restaurant, handed them my credit card, and said, "I would like to pay for every diner's meal tonight.  My card has no limit, and please let everyone know about this offer."   There might be some people who did not take advantage of the offer because they didn't hear about it (like your "what if nobody ever heard of Jesus Christ, would they still go to hell?" people). There would be some who declined the offer feeling that there would be some string attached.  There would be some who declined out of pride, or for whatever other reason.  And there would be a group of people who accepted the offer, and their bills would be paid by me.    The credit line was unlimited, and the acceptance or refusal of some to take advantage does not change that fact.

Now of course, this is an imperfect analogy, because with salvation, God chose exactly which diners would receive their bills paid, but He STILL made the offer to all. 

As for your previous post, you are certainly welcome to believe that the word "all" in 2 Peter 3:9 refers only to "some" (the context would demand otherwise, in my view).  Do you believe the same regarding the word "all" in I Timothy 2:4? I Timothy 2:6? 2 Corinthians 5:15?  What about I John 2:2? Does "the whole world" only mean "the elect" in your view? 

TylerR's picture

Editor

JohnBrian:

Got it. My point in quoting the 1833 New Hampshire Confession was to emphasize that the Spirit secures our voluntary obedience to the Gospel. I forgot to put that part in bold! I don't want to deny human responsibility.

I also believe we may have slightly different definitions of regeneration. I deny that regeneration precedes faith; I believe they are simultaneous.  

My own pitiful explanation is this:

  • Salvation = regeneration + repentance and faith

    • Regeneration is the divine side of salvation, impartation of spiritual life to the spiritually dead. 
    • Repentance and faith is the human side and responsibility, which is acted upon only because the Spirit changes our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh
    • Christ did indeed pray, and Lazarus was restored to life. However, Lazarus' responsibility was to obey Christ's command to physically rise up from the ground to emerge from the tomb.
    • So, my contention is that regeneration and faith occur simultaneously; they cannot be separated in a time sequence. I'm not sure if you affirm traditional Reformed doctrine that the elect can be regenerated even in infancy, long before they act in repentance and faith. I deny this. They occur simultaneously.

At this point, we're splitting hairs. We both honor the sovereignty of God, and we're certainly both "Calvinistic." I'm not sure the term does anything but polarize people either way, so I don't like to use it much. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

JohnBrian's picture

Steve Picray wrote:
Why is it impossible in your view to believe that Christ died for all, but not all will be saved?

It puts God the Son at odds with the other members of the Trinity.

1. God the Father intends to save ONLY the elect - unless you are a universalist you affirm this.

2. God the Son intends to satisfy the wrath of God (propitiate) for ONLY the elect. (the non-elect suffer eternal hell to satisfy God's wrath for their own sin)

3. God the Holy Spirit intends to apply the benefits of the Son's sacrifice ONLY to the elect - unless you are a universalist you also affirm this.

see the article What is propitiation?

Why is it impossible in your view to believe that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are unified in their purpose regarding salvation, but instead insist that the Son does something at odds with both the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Steve Picray wrote:
It's like if I walked into a restaurant, handed them my credit card, and said, "I would like to pay for every diner's meal tonight...

Now of course, this is an imperfect analogy, because with salvation, God chose exactly which diners would receive their bills paid, but He STILL made the offer to all.

Your analogy works only if God has made salvation POSSIBLE for all men everywhere, but has NOT secured the salvation of any man in particular.

Here's a different analogy:

I have a very rich uncle whom I despise and hate with the most intense hatred imaginable. Whenever I see him at family reunions I scream the worst invectives at him, spit at him, shake my fist in his face, and in other ways show him my absolute hatred of him. One day he goes to the bank and pays off my mortgage, then stops at my house to leave the title. Amidst my rant of hatred at him, I tell him that I don't accept the fact that he paid off my mortgage, and call the bank the next day to tell them that I don't accept his payment. What does the bank tell me? Obviously, they tell me that they have no record of a mortgage in my name. Why? Because once it has been paid in full, there is nothing left to pay.

Which of the analogies best fits the biblical record; the offer to pay my restaurant bill, or the actual satisfaction of my mortgage? Did Christ only make salvation POSSIBLE for all men everywhere, or did he actually SECURE the salvation of specific individuals "out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Rev. 5:9)?

Steve Picray wrote:
As for your previous post, you are certainly welcome to believe that the word "all" in 2 Peter 3:9 refers only to "some" (the context would demand otherwise, in my view).

You would need to show HOW the context demands otherwise. Peter is writing to those he calls "elect pilgrims" (1 Peter 1:1-2), to "those who have obtained like precious faith with us" (2 Peter 1:1), to the "beloved" (2 Peter 3:1). He uses the personal pronouns "you" and "us" throughout the letters.

2 Peter 3:8-9
But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

In his encouragement to these, he explains that God is not slack concerning the promise of His coming (v.4), but is longsuffering to US, not longsuffering to ALL. The context demands that the any and the all refer to the US. Your view demands that Peter, in mid-sentence, changes the scope of his entire writing to now include all men everywhere.

It is fascinating to me that when this verse is quoted to prove the "all men everywhere" notion, the first part of the sentence is most often left out of the quote!

Steve Picray wrote:
Do you believe the same regarding the word "all" in I Timothy 2:4? I Timothy 2:6? 2 Corinthians 5:15?  What about I John 2:2?

I deny that "all means all, and that's all all means." The context will determine who the all is referring to:

1 Timothy 2:1-6
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,

Notice that Paul qualifies whom the all men refers to; types of men, kings etc.

One writer references the decretive will:

I think context points to the decretive will of God that men of all categories and classes be saved.

Another article on the passage

2 Corinthians 5:14-15
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

Spurgeon preaching on this passage (vol.24, #1411) stresses the fact that all who die in Christ also rise with Christ. There are none who die who do not also live, so it's difficult to see how this can refer to all men everywhere.

In the next place, he recognized union to Christ, for, he said, “If One died for all, then the all died,” for so it runs, that is to say, the all for whom Christ died, died in His death. His dying in their place was their dying! He dies for them, they die in Him. He rises, they rise in Him. He lives, they live in Him. Now if it is really so, that you and I who have believed in Christ are one with Christ and members of His body, that Truth of God may be stated coolly, but like the flint, it conceals a fire within it! For if we died in Jesus, we are dead to the world, to self—to everything but our Lord! O Holy Spirit, work in us this death even to the fullest! The Apostle recognizes the natural consequence of union with the dying Lord and resolves to carry it out.

1 John 2:1-2
My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

Phil Johnson posted an article on this passage. He wrote:

The apostle is writing to a primarily Jewish audience. He reminds them that Christ "is the propitiation for our sins; and not for [us Hebrews] only, but also for [the sins of Gentiles from every tongue and nation throughout] the whole world."

Christ could not have propitiated (satisfied God's wrath for) the sins of all men everywhere.

Steve Picray wrote:
Does "the whole world" only mean "the elect" in your view?

No! It means what it means in it's context.

I have never met, nor read, nor heard, a Calvinist who affirms that the phrase whole world means elect only. Dave Hunt in a debate in 2002 with Joseph Pipa (pt.1, pt.2) stated words to the effect that he had issued a challenge to Calvinists to show that world in John 3:16 means world of the elect. He gleefully remarked that no Calvinist had ever taken him up on that challenge.

In a letter to a pastor friend about that challenge I wrote:

The problem here, and that which shows his serious lack of understanding, is that no Calvinist has ever claimed what he so adamantly refutes. It’s not in the Canons of Dordt, nor in any of the Calvinistic Confessions, nor in any book by a Calvinist author that I have read.

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Kevin Miller's picture

Quote:
Here's a different analogy:

I have a very rich uncle whom I despise and hate with the most intense hatred imaginable. Whenever I see him at family reunions I scream the worst invectives at him, spit at him, shake my fist in his face, and in other ways show him my absolute hatred of him. One day he goes to the bank and pays off my mortgage, then stops at my house to leave the title. Amidst my rant of hatred at him, I tell him that I don't accept the fact that he paid off my mortgage, and call the bank the next day to tell them that I don't accept his payment. What does the bank tell me? Obviously, they tell me that they have no record of a mortgage in my name. Why? Because once it has been paid in full, there is nothing left to pay.

Which of the analogies best fits the biblical record; the offer to pay my restaurant bill, or the actual satisfaction of my mortgage? Did Christ only make salvation POSSIBLE for all men everywhere, or did he actually SECURE the salvation of specific individuals "out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Rev. 5:9)?

I have a question about your analogy here. According to this, the guy who hates his uncle and wants no relationship with the uncle has the "mortgage debt" paid off but is remaining in the rebellious relationship to the uncle. According to Romans 8:1, there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ, but your analogy has the no condemnation/debt existing before a person is even "in Christ." Is the Calvinist position such that some people are "without condemnation" even before their salvation experience?

Ron Bean's picture

What do Roman Catholicism, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormons have in common? They all teach that Jesus Christ died to make salvation possible IF.....  When these last two come knocking at my door, I ask them to tell me about their Jesus and what he did for them. They very quickly explain that he made salvation "possible" IF....... I then delight in telling them about the real Jesus Christ paid my debt completely. No IFS!

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Kevin Miller's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

What do Roman Catholicism, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormons have in common? They all teach that Jesus Christ died to make salvation possible IF.....  When these last two come knocking at my door, I ask them to tell me about their Jesus and what he did for them. They very quickly explain that he made salvation "possible" IF....... I then delight in telling them about the real Jesus Christ paid my debt completely. No IFS!

Would you also be able to tell them that Christ paid THEIR debt completely?

JohnBrian's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:
I have a question about your analogy here. According to this, the guy who hates his uncle and wants no relationship with the uncle has the "mortgage debt" paid off but is remaining in the rebellious relationship to the uncle. According to Romans 8:1, there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ, but your analogy has the no condemnation/debt existing before a person is even "in Christ."

Analogies always break down at some point and you have discovered that point in this one!

Kevin Miller wrote:
Is the Calvinist position such that some people are "without condemnation" even before their salvation experience?

No!

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JohnBrian's picture

JohnBrian wrote:

1. God the Father intends to save ONLY the elect - unless you are a universalist you affirm this.

2. God the Son intends to satisfy the wrath of God (propitiate) for ONLY the elect. (the non-elect suffer eternal hell to satisfy God's wrath for their own sin)

3. God the Holy Spirit intends to apply the benefits of the Son's sacrifice ONLY to the elect - unless you are a universalist you also affirm this.

Here is Dan Phillips tweet from earlier today where he sums up the above statements:

https://twitter.com/BibChr/status/448159922912759808

p.s. can't figure out how to post as a picture

p.p.s is it bad form to quote oneself!

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TylerR's picture

Editor

Come on, you can do better than that!

I admit that your argument makes more logical sense, but unfortunately the Scriptures do not support your position. Folks have disagreed for centuries on the extent and intention of the atonement, and always will. It would make more logical sense for God to have saved whomever He wanted to immediately and been done with it, but He simply didn't do it that way. We must be captive to the Scriptures, and I simply don't believe your position can survive. 

I can make up a witty tweet, too, but it won't prove anything! 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

JohnBrian's picture

TylerR wrote:
I admit that your argument makes more logical sense, but unfortunately the Scriptures do not support your position. Folks have disagreed for centuries on the extent and intention of the atonement... ...and I simply don't believe your position can survive.

Obviously we disagree, as I believe the scriptures DO support the view I affirm, and since "folks have disagreed for centuries," the position has clearly survived!

Lets look again at 1 John 2:2

And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

The phrase whole world could refer to all men without exception which is the view you affirm. The phrase could also refer to the inclusion of Gentiles with Jews, which is the view I affirm. Rev 5:9 shows that individuals "out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation" have been redeemed to God by the blood by the lamb, affirming that inclusiveness.

The word propitiation "involves appeasing the wrath of an offended person and being reconciled to him." You affirm that Christ's death appeased the wrath of God for all men without exception but only potentially, not actually. If it in fact was actual then you would be a universalist and you are not. I affirm that it was actual only for the elect, which is the "whosoever believes" of John 3:16.

My argument is that the wrath of God cannot be propitiated for those who will not believe, because they are condemned for their lack of belief (John 3:18), and the wrath of God abides on them (John 3:36).

Those who affirm your view must insist that Christ has only made salvation POSSIBLE.

I wrote an article in 2008 titled The Logic of Both Calvinism and Arminianism, pointing out that "each of the approaches to understanding salvation is an internally consistent philosophy." Four point Calvinism, when it gets to the L, jumps to the Arminian side, completely destroying the flow. 

Boettner, in his Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, uses the analogy of a bridge:

Let there be no misunderstanding at this point. The Arminian limits the atonement as certainly as does the Calvinist. The Calvinist limits the extent of it in that he says it does not apply to all persons (although as has already been shown, he believes that it is efficacious for the salvation of the large proportion of the human race); while the Arminian limits the power of it, for he says that in itself it does not actually save anybody. The Calvinist limits it quantitatively, but not qualitatively; the Arminian limits it qualitatively, but not quantitatively. For the Calvinist it is like a narrow bridge which goes all the way across the stream; for the Arminian it is like a great wide bridge which goes only half-way across. As a matter of fact, the Arminian places more severe limitations on the work of Christ than does the Calvinist. [p.153] (text here)

Spurgeon, in his Particular Redemption sermon (#181, pt. V, pg. 7 of the pdf), said:

We are often told that we limit the Atonement of Christ because we say that Christ has not made a satisfaction for all men, or all men would be saved. Now, our reply to this is that, on the other hand, our opponents limit it—we do not! The Arminians say Christ died for all men. Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men? They say, “No, certainly not.” We ask them the next question—Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any man in particular? They answer, “No.” They are obliged to admit this if they are consistent. They say “No, Christ has died that any man may be saved if”—and then follow certain conditions of salvation. We say, then, we will just go back to the old statement—Christ did not die so as beyond a doubt to secure the salvation of anybody, did He? You must say, “No.” You are obliged to say so, for you believe that even after a man has been pardoned, he may yet fall from Grace and perish. Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why, you! You say that Christ did not die so as to Infallibly secure the salvation of anybody. We beg your pardon, when you say we limit Christ’s death! We say, “No, my dear Sir, it is you that do it. We say Christ so died that He Infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ’s death not only may be saved but are saved, must be saved and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved! You are welcome to your atonement. You may keep it. We will never renounce ours for the sake of it.”

Old SI threads on the issue of the atonement:

Perspectives on Limited Atonement

What did Christ's death accomplish?

Unlimited Atonement

The Logic of Limited Atonement by Kevin T. Bauder

Jerry Falwell Calls Limited Atonement Heresy

L Atonement Question

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pvawter's picture

John,
If Christ is the propitiation for the elect, in that his death actually appeased God's wrath on their behalf, then were the elect saved at the moment of Christ's death? Wouldn't that mean the elect (since Calvary) are born redeemed and not under God's wrath? Why then would the rest of the NT speak of some being saved post-crucifixion?

Kevin Miller's picture

pvawter wrote:

John,
If Christ is the propitiation for the elect, in that his death actually appeased God's wrath on their behalf, then were the elect saved at the moment of Christ's death? Wouldn't that mean the elect (since Calvary) are born redeemed and not under God's wrath? Why then would the rest of the NT speak of some being saved post-crucifixion?

I was going to ask John something similar, since he had already answered part of your question in a response to me. I had asked him if some people are "without condemnation" before their salvation experience, and he had said "no." So he DOES believe the elect are under condemnation before they get saved, even though their propitiation was made at the cross. I'd like to know if he thinks the "credit card" analogy would work if it refers ONLY to the elect. Is salvation possible for them (as opposed to being impossible for the non-elect), but only made actual at the time of their salvation experience?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Paul and Kevin,

I don't pretend to fully understand all of this. However, I think part of the answer is found in the fact that God is not bound to a linear existence in the way that we are. That's why we find verses like Ephesians 1:4 stating that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world and Revelation 17:8 stating that the names of the elect are written in the Lamb's Book of Life before the foundation of the world. Scripture's presentation of salvation is an interesting study. It is an instantaneous act by God, but it is portrayed in scripture for the saved as a completed act, an ongoing act, and a future act. All three tenses are used. In that light, it makes it easier to understand how Jesus made propitiation for all the elect even though it must still be applied to each person at a point in time. To argue that the propitiation is potential for all removes God from the driver's seat in the salvation equation, putting the fallen creation in charge. Then it is up to man whether he will permit God to save him then. Not only does this destroy God's sovereignty, it create's a works salvation that is dependent on something man does. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Kevin Miller's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

To argue that the propitiation is potential for all removes God from the driver's seat in the salvation equation, putting the fallen creation in charge. Then it is up to man whether he will permit God to save him then. Not only does this destroy God's sovereignty, it create's a works salvation that is dependent on something man does. 

If this position destroys God's sovereignty, then doesn't the Calvinist position destroy man's free will? Do I need to think of free will as something like an illusion which we THINK we have when looking from our own perspective, whereas God's sovereignty is really totally in charge and we actually do not make any of our own decisions? If we made ANY of our own decisions in life, wouldn't we be in charge of our lives instead of God being sovereign?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Kevin,

In a sense that is true. Sovereignty requires absolute, unrestricted freedom to do whatever one wants to do. By the real definition of free will, one must be sovereign to exercise free will, and in that sense, only God truly has a free will. Most Christians accept this concept without realizing it, because they understand that they are enslaved to sin before salvation. They really don't have a free will before they are saved because they are slaves; it realy is an illusion. You and I are not able to exercise absolute, unrestricted freedom to do whatever we choose before we are saved. In fact, this is evident apart from the moral realm. If I was truly sovereign and could actually exercise my free will, believe you me I would be flying all the time. But I can't fly. My free will is limited, so not actually free will at all.

Now, I started by saying "in a sense." I think you hit the main issue with your use of the word perspective. While I don't really have a free will, I think it is also true that God never forces me to do something against my will. Hence, I am responsible for my sinful estate because I am who I have chosen to be. If the Calvinist is correct, then regeneration frees me from the bondage to sin allowing me to see and think clearly. Now, I am drawn to God by His irresistible grace. But, again, I am not being forced to act against my will.

Kind of shorthand, but I think you can get the gist of it.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

josh p's picture

I prefer to think of fallen man's will as free to chose but since his will, mind, emotions are totally depraved he only chooses sin and thus rejection of God.

pvawter's picture

Chip,

I do not think you are answering my questions at all. Instead, you are hiding behind a vague statement about God's sovereignty, and suggesting that I am denying God his due place. Let me assure you that is nonsense. Of course I affirm God's sovereignty in all things, so let's dispense with that right away.

JohnBrian said, "My argument is that the wrath of God cannot be propitiated for those who will not believe, because they are condemned for their lack of belief (John 3:18), and the wrath of God abides on them (John 3:36)." In other words, Christ was unable to be the propitiation for the non-elect, because they refuse to believe. This doesn't resolve the issue, it only moves it to another location. Did Christ die on behalf of all men? Or was he limited by man's unbelief, so that he could only die for the elect? If this is a correct expression of Calvinist soteriology, then it seems that the Calvinist is the one who is in danger of contradicting God's sovereignty.

On the other hand, my objection still stands. If we follow JohnBrian's argument, we must conclude that Christ's death saved the elect at Calvary, therefore they were never actually lost (only potentially, in the mind of God). As Tyler said, it might make sense to us for God to have saved whomever he chose immediately upon Christ's death, but that is not what the Scriptures teach, therefore I cannot subscribe to that position.

TylerR's picture

Editor

You wrote:

My argument is that the wrath of God cannot be propitiated for those who will not believe, because they are condemned for their lack of belief (John 3:18), and the wrath of God abides on them (John 3:36).

Far from proving your own point, I see it as confirming my own: 

  • Christ's death serves to confirm or prove the rebellion of those who will not repent and believe. I have made this point a few times. This makes the negative effect of Christ's work not causal, but confirmatory. Their condemnation is confirmed, once and for all. We are all "condemned already," but now when folks reject the clearest, most complete revelation from the Father - they prove or confirm this status. They have no pretense of an excuse, no more cloak for their sin (Jn 15:22). Carson agrees with this view (PNTC), so does Kruse (TNTC). So does Calvin. I don't see it proving your point. 
  • They saw the truth, but chose darkness rather than light

I also do not necessarily see it as a strike against my own position if the pieces do not line up as neatly as I would like. I am aware of the seeming inconsistency in upholding God's absolute sovereignty and man's willfull rejection at the same time. Every thinking Christian is aware of this inconsistency. It would be easier to just accept your position, but I just don't see it. 

For example:

1 John 5:10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.

  • Those who have believed in Christ have an internal witness to the truth
  • Those who reject Christ have essentially called God a liar
  • Why have they called God a liar?
  • Because they don't believe the record God gave about His Son

11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

  • This is the record they refuse to believe:

    • God has given, or offered, eternal life in His Son.
    • Calvin himself supports the view that John is saying this salvation is being offered; "Having now set forth the benefit, he invites us to believe." 
  • How can folks be condemned for rejecting the record of Christ's work if the benefits of this work were never offered to them in the first place?

12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 

  • John now summarizes
  • Those who have (believe in) the Son have life. Those who do not have (believe in) the Son do not have eternal life. 
  • Who has the Son? Those who believe
  • What about those who reject it? They are calling God a liar, because they are rejecting the record God gave of His Son
  • What is the record, again? That God has given eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 
  • Therefore, we must tell everybody to repent and believe

 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

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